Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo makes its first gliding test flight over New Mexico

For the first time, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane flew free in the skies over New Mexico’s Spaceport America , its new base of operations.

The SpaceShipTwo plane, known as VSS Unity, has made rocket-powered flights beyond the 50-mile space milestone during tests at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port , but today’s unpowered test flight was the first to be flown from Spaceport America. Unity was carried to a height of 50,000 feet by its WhiteKnightTwo mothership, VMS Eve, and then released to glide back to the spaceport’s runway.
Virgin Galactic said Unity achieved a glide speed of Mach 0.70 and completed all test objectives with pilots Dave Mackay and CJ Sturckow at the controls. The flight was conducted under a set of operational protocols aimed at ensuring safety amid the coronavirus pandemic, including social distancing and universal mask usage.
Further test flights will clear the way for passengers to start flying suborbital space trips as early as this year. More than 600 customers from 60 countries have paid as much as $250,000 for a reservation, and Virgin Galactic resumed taking deposits for trips in February .